History of Parks Ridge

By Olive Clements Cotton

The Vevay Reveille-Enterprise
Thursday, December 9, 1943

Transcription by Lori Burgess
December 12, 2002

I have often wondered why no one has ever written a history of Parks Ridge. To some people it is the most loved place on earth, I being one of them. Mr. John Nay said if any one ever took a drink of water on Parks Ridge, they always came back. 

Speaking of water almost every home had a fine well which was either dug in front or side yard with its curb and windlass plainly visible from the big road, and at which many a traveler has stopped to quench his thirst. I remember one incident of two young men stopping at one place; the old lady of the house very obligingly gave them a drink. As they were starting away they yelled for their presidential candidate which was on the opposite side from the old lady's politics and she said, “If I had known that you were on that side you shouldn't have had any of my 'warter'”. 

Parks Ridge is sort of a Y shaped, one prong running off to the southeast, the old Lawrenceburg and Vincennes road running the full length of it, but instead of turning down the National hill, it ran straight down towards the Cotton grave yard, the dent in the earth is still visible. Mrs. Effie Danner says there was a fort on a high place above the grave yard but every sign has been obliterated, it being built for the protection of the early settlers from the Indians. In early times Parks Ridge reached only as far west as “Sinnersville” located where Mrs. Maude Hart now owns. There were two homes with their buildings on opposite sides of the road that gave it the appearance of a village. A very wicked man lived on the north side of the road, hence the name. In later years it is called Parks Ridge all the way from Long Run church down. 

The ridge is bounded on the north by the Tumblebug branch and Indian creek which in early days when the water table was much nearer the surface than it is now, was a full flowing stream. If it had been in California it would have been called a river. Once in a while somebody would build a foot bridge or fix a log across for boot passengers to use, but the first freshet would wash them away and at times it became a raging torrent. My uncle John Lewis owned a creek bottom farm at the foot of the National hill on which he built a home on the highest ground, although the creek had never been known to overflow the land. Just back of the house was a depression which they called the 'Slough' where water trickled through once in a while. One dark, rainy summer night the creek began to rise, the slough became a deep stream. They family saw there was danger of their home being swept away. He and his wife took the two younger children Perry and Roy and some bed clothes and waded across to the hillside out of danger; the water was getting deeper every minute. He waded back and carried John, Jr., across, leaving the two oldest, Cora and Fred. When the father went back he didn't know which one to take, but he had to make up his mind in a hurry. He said, “come on Fred”. Cora knowing she would be left alone and might never see them again, said “O Pappy” with a sob. She was the oldest and only girl about 10 years old. By that time the water was waist deep and ready to come over the floor. It was with a sob when he told us about it, and said nothing could have been prevented him from going back and trying to save her even if he knew they both would be drowned; they would die together. But they got back to where the others were huddled together, happy that they were all saved. They had left a lamp burning. When the water got deep enough in the house to float the stand on which the lamp was sitting, and it began to move they thought the house was going. At daylight they went to a neighbor's on the hill where they got their breakfast and left the children. By that time the waters had subsided somewhat and they went back to clean the mud from the floors and make the home fit to live in again but they never risked it long after that, and moved the house back on the hillside out of danger. Soon after they sold out and moved to Berryton, Kansas where they are all living except the father; the mother now being 93 years old and is real spry and happy.
Usually there is a trait in all people which causes them to be remembered and handed down to future generations long after the original has passed on. John Protsman, Sr. and wife were great Methodists and very devout. They had several children, two sons, William and Elias. William married my father's aunt, Margaret Clements. Their home was where Alice Smith now lives. I always admired those big pine trees that grew in their yard. He made frequent trips down to New Orleans on flat boats, but the most remarkable thing about his family is that six of his eight children married Sigmons. 

Hughie McClanahan also was a devout Methodist. He was the father of fourteen children, dying at the age of 52. William Mitchell also married an aunt of my father, Kibbie Clements. She never was inclined to talk about her pioneer family which was a disappointment to many. Uncle Billie, as he was called had one experience that came near losing his life. He was walking home from Vevay one cold winter night carrying his lantern. He aimed to walk across the back water on the ice but it broke through. As he went down he set the lantern on the ice and called for help. The lantern directed the men to the place. By the time they rescued him he was almost dead. It was some time before he recovered from his icy bath. Some time after the Ohio river became frozen over and my grandmother was telling about walking across on the ice. He told her she was a fool, that he would not have done so even if he was positive it was frozen to the bottom. He built the second new frame house on the Ridge, my grandfather Clements having build the first in the year of 1861. 

Jesse Roberts, Sr., was married twice, had three children by his first marriage, Ed, William and Mary and four by the second, Irvin, Charlie, Jesse, Jr., and Elsie. He was the only man I ever saw that wore a heavy gray shawl instead of an overcoat, and was so fond of gravy that he was nicknamed “Gravy”. 

The next farm down the Ridge was owned by Joseph Orr. He had five children, John, Gabe, Oscar, Cal and Julia. Oscar disappeared and never was heard of again. Gabe married Mary Orem and moved to Tipton County. Mary had one trait that I never forgot. She never left the school room from the time she got there in the morning till she went home at night; seldom left her seat; once in a while she would stand at the window at playtime and watch the children play. 

Martin Cripe knew the family when he lived in Tipton county and tells me that Mary's oldest son Pearl and he were buddies in their young days. They called her “Mollie” Orr out there. The next farm east of the Orr farm belonged to John Sigmon; it had not gone from the Sigmon name for more than a hundred years until last Spring, when it was sold by the heirs of Andrew Sigmon. John Sigmon was a gentleman so I have been told. I heard Louis Bellamy say that it made his feet tired to read so much about Perret Dufour and John Francis Dufour for they were no better than John Sigmon. He was an uncle of Rev. J. D. Griffith, also my great-grandfather. He married Rachel Richards and they were the parents of seven children. Of the two older sons, Larkin and Tommy, Larkin was mischievous and Tommy was good natured and obedient. At one time their parents were going off on a week end visit. Owing to the primitive way of transportation they had to start the day before. In those days the last plowing of corn was called the “laying by” and the father told them to lay a certain field of corn by and after, they might have the day off to go fishing. Larkin was not in the mood for plowing corn and wanted to go fishing right away, but Tommy said no that daddy had told them to “lay the corn by” and they must do it. So Larkin climbed up in the corner of their log stable, took off his hat and said, “Mr. Corn field I lay you by”. Of course as now it was laid by there was nothing else to do but go fishing. 

Tommy married a first cousin, Rachel Lewis. They had four daughters. Once he was troubled with a decaying tooth, having sleepless nights on its account. One morning he had quit grumbling and his family had forgotten for the moment about his tooth. He said, “It hasn't hurt me since I laid it on the mantle piece.” He had gotten up in the night and hooked the steelyards to it and pulled it out.
John Sigmon has many descendants scattered all over the United States. I have the names of over 350. There are one or two branches that I have never been able to contact but they are still going strong. I have seen six generations of them. In the early days there was scarcely a never failing spring but had its cabin near by, wells were dug later. There was a sort of local tramp that lived among the earlier settlers by the name of Bill Roach. He claimed he could locate water with a green forked limb cut from a live fruit tree. Then when he had selected a place he wanted the job of digging the well. If anyone wanted to pick a fight, just call him “Ruben;” he would throw any thing he could put his hands on. Once he disappeared, no one knew where he had gone; two years later he came back. He had walked to Arkansas and back. After that he called himself the “Arkansas Traveler”. When he got too old to do hard work he went to the poor house to live. One day he went with another imbecile inmate, John Ostrander to saw some wood. After a short while John came in bringing Bill's hat and said he guessed Bill was dead, and said “he had saved his hat.” It was rumored that John had killed him. 

Mr. Henry Waltz, Sr's farm adjoined the Sigmon farm. He courted his wife three different times; when she was a girl, then after the death of her first husband, I think his name was Holcraft, then after her second died, his name was Lambertson. Mr. Waltz' nickname was “Jucks.” He was said to be the seventh son of a seventh son and therefore able to cure thrush and other children's diseases. I never saw him treat but one case. He waved his hand over the child and mumbled some words that no listener could understand. The child did not die but a swabbing with boric acid would have done better. His seventh son happened to be a daughter and the charm was broken. He used to tell a story about when he was a boy that he and his buddie went across the river to steal watermelons, that the owner caught them in his melons, chased them out and in their flight they ran through a green tobacco patch, and how they broke the leaves off as they ran toward the river and were about to be caught but happily when they got there it was frozen over and they ran across on the ice and got away. 

His wife was a good woman, also a good neighbor; everybody loved her. She was present at my birth and dropped dead in her yard the following May. 

The farm joining the Waltz farm on the east was entered by one John Brandon, August 14, 1834. I have the land grant written on real parchment and signed by Andrew Jackson President of the United States, and sold to my grandfather two or three years later. He, Charles Clements was married in Baltimore, Md., to Susanna Haislet, December 22, 1836 and with his bride came direct to Craig township, Switzerland county where they both lived and died. He was born and educated in Baltimore and was a great reader. He would take his paper to the field to read while his team rested. He would lift up a corner of a rail fence and put this paper under to keep it from blowing way, where remnants were found long after he had passed away. During the Civil War he would ride his roan horse Bill, to Mr. Sterling for his daily paper. Once while crossing the creek Bill stumbled and jerked is high silk hat off. It fell upside down; he tried to retrieve it and every time he almost reached it Bill would get frightened at it and shy away. All the time the hat was floating merrily down the creek. He had to give it up and go on bareheaded. He died suddenly from an accident and Bill was disposed of. The last the family knew of him, a band of gypsies had him in the northern part of the state. Several years passed and well do I remember my father coming in one morning and telling of old Bill being at the barn in his own stall. On investigation it was found that at the very first panel of the rail fence on the hill of his old home he had laid it down and came in. My grandmother died when my father was 14 years old. She was sick for some time. A baby colt was born at the stable and he took it into the house to let his mother see. She named him General Ross. He was a bright blood bay with a narrow blaze and one so called glass eye. He was the first horse that I can remember that my father owned and I “claimed” him. I have always wished that I could have known my grandmother, for I have been told so much about her by those who knew her; that she was so much of a real lady, that her presence could be felt in any gathering whether she said anything or not. She was tall and stately, dark eyes and very light brown hair, almost blond with at touch of gold. My father told of going to the spring one evening with his mother when there was a storm coming. When it would lightning her head looked like it was on fire. Once she was telling a friend about becoming so frightened at a thunder storm that she put her head between the feather bed and straw mattress. My father then a small lad remarked that he remembered about it, and she said, “Yes, Robbie that was about two weeks before you were born.” 

A painter painted both their portraits, life size. They stood on the front room mantle, at my first remembrance. They were always looking at one. I used to try to get out of their sight but never could. If I could see their eyes at all they were always looking. After a time they were taken upstairs, then to the attic where they disappeared. 

The next home down the Ridge belonged to a Mr. Proctor. I doubt if there are a dozen living today that remember him. What impressed me most was the manner in which he killed his horse. I was always a lover of horses and anything pertaining to them always stuck in my memory. In those days when a horse got old and worthless, it was the custom to turn him out on the commons to die, which he did not always do very readily, and would help themselves to any of the neighbors corn shocks. Of course the people would protest and take the offending horse back to its owner. This happened to Mr. Proctor, so he took it to a woods on a neighboring farm and cut its throat and left it to stagger around over the hillside till it bled to death. 

They had one son who had a spell of sickness that caused all of his hair to come out and never did come in again. When he grew up he purchased a wig; as a lad he wore his hat continually, not even taking it off to eat. He was at his half-sister's home one rainy day and his brother-in-law was working in his shop where several of the neighbor boys had congregated and were getting boisterous. He told them if they didn't behave that he would “snatch them bald headed”, that here was one one that he done already and he lifted off the Proctor boy's hat. It frightened the other boys so badly that they tried to climb the walls to get away. 

At the fork of the road leading past the school house was a guide post reading, 2-1/2 miles to Mt. Sterling, 4 to Moorefield, 6 to Vevay. The first dwelling down that road belonged to Henry Waltz, Jr. It was a neat story and a half log with a frame addition. It was surrounded by fruit trees of all kinds, together with roses, shrubs and vines. On the garden fence was a large wisteria vine which, when in bloom was of unsurpassed beauty. At the southeast corner of the front yard, stood the largest cherry tree I ever saw. It must have been two and a half feet through near the ground. The fruit grew in large clusters and was almost black when ripe. It made a dense shade. Of summer Sunday afternoons the youngsters would gather in its shade for a social hour. Once someone laid a bunch of those cherries on the chair on which I had been sitting, which had a black and red flowered cover in the cushion, and I had the misfortune of sitting down on them, staining my white dress and several thicknesses beneath. I went past there four years ago and if someone had blindfolded me and put me down there I could not have told where I was. Not a tree in sight, the well curb with its windlass gone, the house in a twist looking as though it was about to fall down, most of the outbuildings gone. It made me feel like weeping. 

The next home down the Ridge belonged to the Park family for whom the Ridge was named. Mr. Park was of Irish descent and was very afraid of snakes. He was a good Christian man, always had family worship just before they ate breakfast. He could do most any kind of work. It was he that arched my father's barn cistern after on of his matched mares had walked over the board covering which gave way and she fell in. He also was the man that threatened to “snatch the boys bald headed.” Further down the Ridge there was a grave in the middle of the road, When the road became too muddy on one side, traffic would take the other side. I have forgotten the man's name that grave belonged to but the road was elsewhere at the time he was buried. The road workers got tired of it being there; they dug the remains up, put them in a box and reburied them along the fence on the line between Jefferson and Craig township which was near by. 

Near there was the home of David Dow, Sr. He went to California in the rush of '49 but did not find the gold that he went after. He married Phebe Manford from the Scotch Settlement above Moorefield; they had six children. On a ridge off to the right was the home of Joseph Dow. Near by on the same hill was the Dow family graveyard. When I saw it last it was enclosed with at neat stone wall 3 or 4 feet high. The occupied space was covered with a thick mass of myrtle so thick that the earth could not be seen; planted by Sophia, Joseph's wife. She took good care of the graves till she moved to Shelbyville with her son George's family a good many years ago. 

Off on another ridge, quite a distance from the big road was Thomas Dow's farm. Bad luck seemed to follow him. He got his leg broken in two places at the same time; later he fell off a horse and broke his shoulder. Both accidents happened after he was quite an old man. He was 20 years older than his wife. They raised five children; two died in infancy. 

The Dow name bids fair to become extinct I that vicinity. Of the original three families and fifteen children that were my school mates there are only three that still bear the name, one from each family Fred of Vevay, Nellie of Abe's Run and Howard of Long Run.
Thomas Dow's children were great on jokes, games and physical projects. Bill graduated from Vevay High School, taught several schools around there, then went to California where he organized a horse shoe pitching club of which he as the president. He became quite efficient in that game. He sent me a picture cut from a newspaper, showing him pinning a medal on a comrade. When Bill was 15 or 16 years old his mother told him to take a bag of rags as he was going to school and sell them to the huxter when he came by. Bill didn't want the job and protested but children obeyed in those days, so he started with his rags, grumbling all the way. When he got out of sight form home and was ready to climb the first rail fence, of which theer were several . Bill threw his rag bag across the top rail and declared that he “wasn't going another step.” Ed and Mollie came on and got to school in plenty of time. After the middle of the forenoon we heard a commotion at the door. Of course everyone looked around, and there came Bill staggering in with his rags. They were not heavy but rather bulky. On the way to his seat he rolled the bag off his shoulder in the corner and gave the innocent offending bag a vicious kick and walked to his seat with all the dignity that he could summon. I cant' think about that episode, even today without smiling. 

Bill used to write to the Vevay Reveille signing his name Lib Wod which when read backwards spelled Bil Dow. 

The school house where my father went to school, was built of logs. Wesley McHenry was one of his last teachers. A traveler passing through took shelter one night in the school house, was taken sick with Asiatic cholera and died there. They made his coffin in my grandfather's barn and buried him in the Cotton grave yard. I think that no one ever learned his name. I don't know how long that epidemic lasted but it must have been an awful scourge. Mrs. Sarah Stepleton Dow told me that her father died with it. He went to work in the morning, was stricken about 10 o'clock and died before the middle of the afternoon the same day. 

The school house of my first recollection was built by Adam Worden and was a two story structure, the lower for school, the upper of the Good Temperance lodge. Like all secret societies they had pass words which were changed every three, six or more months. Lee Wormus belonged; he was a Frenchman, coming from Paris, and always had a decided brogue. The pass word was “Outlaw the liquor traffic” and Lee did not understand but thought that the fellow that gave it said, “Outlaw he negro travel.” So that is what he gave until they were to have a new password at the next meeting, when someone noticed he wasn't saying the right one.
The upper room was also used as a church and was a point on the circuit with Ebenezer. They would have revivals that lasted for weeks and such large crowds attended that there was danger of the floor giving way. Two props were put in the school room to support the floor above. The effects of those meeting were seen for at least two generations. Old Johnnie Gray would pray so long and so loudly and pound the bench before which he was kneeling with his fists, which almost raised the roof. One time his dog which had followed, slipped in while he was praying with his eyes shut, and licked him in the face. He stopped long enough to tell the dog to “get out” and then went on with his prayer. At another time there was such a calm after he got done praying that one fellow arose from his knees and put his hat on. The prayer had confused him. 

I do not remember of there ever being a funeral preached there but I do of one wedding, that of Lee Wormus and Eliza Protsman. Nettie Sigmon and Hol Protsman, Mottie Protsman and Joe McClanahan “stood up” with them. It occurred on my eleventh birthday. I attended their Golden Wedding Anniversary 50 years later. 

The school room below had a very high ceiling and was very difficult to keep comfortable in real cold weather with the wood burning stove. Just back of it was a backless bench about 6 feet long where the scholars that sat farthest away would go to warm up. One day Ed Dow handed his book and slate to a boy sitting near by, to hold while he “fell over.” So Ed tipped the bench, went over backwards, seat and all. Of course it was done “accidentally on purpose.” 

On the school house grounds were several big beech trees, and a large oak stump where we laid our heads to hide our eyes when playing hide and seek. Just across the road in front was a large original forest where picnics were held. One could not look in any direction without seeing fine big woods. Almost every farm had an orchard of apples and peaches. When I was down that way four years ago, there was scarcely a tree in sight, the orchards gone, the tall school house that I had tried so many times to throw a ball over and never succeeded, and where I spent all my school days, also gone. I felt like I had lost a much loved, tried and true friend.
As far as I know there are only five others, Mary Orem Orr of Tipton county, Ed Park of Muncie, Scott Clements of Morenci, Michigan, Nora Waltz Park and Kittie Clements of Vevay, that are living today that also spent their whole school days at Shiloh, District No. 4.
Well do I remember the first Armistice Day, twenty-five years ago. My folks had gone to Vevay that night expecting something big and were sorely disappointed. About all they saw or heard was Earl Brown out with a shot gun which he fired at intervals. I was at home alone. Soon after dark someone began ringing the Long Run school bell, then the Moorefield school bell began, then Ebenezer church bell. I went out and began ringing our dinner bell, and every bell for miles around took up the refrain. The like of such music I have never heard as the sweet tones came floating in on that still November night. When the folks came home and I told them of our celebration of Armistice Day they were sorry they had missed it and wished they had stayed at home.